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A Coordinating Entry System improves outcomes. But how can you create one within such a mixed environment?

If you get funding from HUD, you know that Coordinated Entry is now a national priority. But how do you build out this new system when many of the agencies you work with don’t need to follow HUD requirements and are still using a variety of different databases?

When you’re placing people in housing, speed isn’t the only goal.  You also need to be sure that clients with the highest needs have gotten priority and that they’re given the intervention that will make the biggest difference.

HUD now requires you to implement a Coordinated Entry System. Communities do have latitude in how they build and deploy their system (i.e. they can opt for either a centralized or decentralized system) but they must follow the HUD initiative of matching housing needs with the appropriate resources.

One community, the Coalition of Homeless Service Providers, a group of private non-profit and public organizations working together in Monterey and San Benito counties to end homelessness, opted for a centralized CARS (Coordinated Entry and Referral System) to make it possible for individuals and families to get the help they need no matter where they first encounter the system of care.

After filling out a survey, clients are directed to the services or housing intervention that best suits their needs.  No more multiple submissions of the same forms.  No more disheartening bureaucratic runaround.


Creating a Coordinated Entry system shifts your mindset. Instead of asking whether this household is eligible for your specific program, you have to ask “Among the various options available in the Continuum of Care, what would be best?” 

The Coalition was excited to put this client-centric system to work. But, even though they got HUD funding, many of the agencies worked with didn’t.  In fact, many of their partners  were required by their funders to support a different database entirely.


Another challenge the Coalition and other agencies face when trying to create Coordinated Entry system is that when it comes to analyzing data, not all HMIS systems are equal. Even though HUD requires agencies to use HMIS, there’s a huge range of effectiveness in the software available. If you’re not capturing quality data, you won’t be able to make quality assessments.


How CTA helped:

  • Integrating different databases. By using Open Source tools (HOME, HSLynk data warehouse) to build out the Coordinated Entry system, we were able to break down the silos of data and integrate partners who use different databases.
  • Worked within existing systems. HOME allows any program to collect and upload client and VI-SPDAT data directly to the Coalition without imposing new software or licenses. As long as the Coalition’s partners’ systems could import/export, they could use HSLynk.
  • Made it easier to visualize and analyze data. We created customized reports in CTA’s Tableau. Now stakeholders could evaluate and visualize their most critical performance metrics.
  • Measured Outcomes not Outputs. Provided gap analysis of data quality issues and provided a road map to increase data quality. This is critical, because you want to be measuring actual changes in access, assessment and referrals, not just in services performed.


What happened? The Coalition of Homeless Service Providers drastically improved their data: it’s currently 98.5% and counting.  Implementing this client-centric system broke down silos of data and made it possible to communicate more effectively among agencies.

Since implementing CARS, more people (793!) have moved into the Active List.

Is your agency trying to implement CARS?  What are some of the challenges that you’re facing?  Share your story.

Stay tuned for our next blog.  We’ll share how many people moved from the Active List into housing.